Mining governance mechanisms: Innovation policy, practice, and theory facing algorithmic decision-making

Annalisa Pelizza*, Stefan Kuhlmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The shift from governance of to governance by information infrastructures has major implications for innovation policy. With algorithmic governance, regimes of inclusion/exclusion "sink" in information infrastructures that act as decisionmakers. Inclusive governance of innovation thus needs to dig deeper into technological details. This chapter focuses on one major aspect that characterizes algorithmic decision-making, namely, the overlap between policy and practice. Drawing upon the innovation dance metaphor, we ask whether any space for theory can be acknowledged when algorithmic governance tightly couples policy and practice. We first attempt to theoretically answer this question by introducing the Science and Technology Studies notion of "de-scription" as a translation of rules and behaviors from extrasomatic material devices to explicit textual instructions. We propose that space for innovation theory can be conceived of as a descriptive activity. We then exemplify the overlapping argument against the case of blockchain technologies. Blockchains are the algorithmic software underpinning peer-to-peer electronic payment systems-the most renowned of which is Bitcoin. We argue that blockchains "inscribe trust" into software and thus constitute self-standing governance mechanisms. By analyzing a recent controversy in the Bitcoin community, we show that space for theory is more likely to emerge when a controversy arises, which requires description in order to recruit new allies. This evidence suggests that the relationship between theory and inclusion might be inverted: inclusion might not be the outcome of theory, but space for theory is the result of controversies in which opposite factions carry out recruitment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Cyber-Development, Cyber-Democracy, and Cyber-Defense
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783319090696
ISBN (Print)9783319090689
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2018


  • Algorithmic governance
  • Bitcoin
  • Blockchain
  • Controversy
  • Description
  • Governance by information infrastructures
  • Governance of innovation
  • Inclusion
  • Innovation dance
  • Innovation policy
  • Innovation practice
  • Innovation theory
  • Script
  • Strategic intelligence


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